Even with the ambitious goal of trying a new variety every night, it would take months to sample every single beer at Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar. Not only are there 53 different drafts and an array of cellar reserve bottles, but the selection is constantly updated with new craft brews from Wisconsin and around the world. Beer-savvy bartenders make their own recommendations behind the circular center bar as servers deliver trays of imaginative gastropub dishes—crab-stuffed jalapeños, freshwater bluegill sliders, and the hefty burger lauded by reporters from A.V. Club Milwaukee as “drool-inducing.” When not toppling giant Jenga blocks or throwing darts, guests can gaze up at the flat-screen televisions and cheer when a hardened banker learns to love in a Lifetime movie. The massive wooden deck gives al fresco enthusiasts space to linger over bites of cod tacos and barbecue pork nachos.
Cilantro Bar and Grill’s Rick Bayless–trained chefs forge contemporary cuisine using fresh produce, locally sourced meats, and recipes culled from the families of owners Armando Cristobal and his sister and brother-in-law, Sylvia and Gonzalo de Santiago. The kitchen builds meals from scratch at brunch, lunch, and dinner, sating appetites after brisk strolls around the Capitol or romantic narwhal rides across Lake Mendota. Orange walls complement the colors of game hen en escabeche, whose mashed sweet potatoes balance the savory flavors of an achiote garlic marinade, whereas stained-glass fixtures mimic the vibrant hues of cabernet sangria, hibiscus iced tea, and mango-cilantro margaritas. Diners can sample the cuisine of four different regions of Mexico by ordering the tamales surtidos, a sampler of four cornhusks stuffed with steamed corn masa flour. Cilantro also serves seven types of Mexican beer for guests to sip or toss at supporting actors during rehearsals for upcoming daytime TV roles.
Backed by 100 years of deli experience, Hansen’s Dairy and Deli keeps loyal regulars nibbling year-round. Like a Norman Rockwell painting with a side of ketchup, the bill of fare is an edible piece of Americana, regaling taste buds with creamy milk shakes, crispy thin-crust pizzas, and savory fried-chicken dinners. The deli’s crew also crafts more than 20 different hot and cold sandwiches, stacking bread with everything from turkey and bacon to philly steak and perch.
At both the Green Bay and De Pere locations, an old-fashioned charm washes over visitors. The uniformed staff greets each guest with a friendly smile, and shiny display cases keep a colorful array of ice creams chilled to perfection.
In Tropical Mexican Cuisine’s kitchen, the crew wraps meats and beans in large tortillas to create traditional dishes such as chimichangas and enchiladas, but it’s the house specialties that stand out on the menu. For these, they stir together orange vinaigrette or chile ancho to smother grilled steaks, and carefully craft red and green moles to pair with chicken. People with special diets, such as vegetarians and kids who only eat food smaller than their heads, can order from their own menu.
Blue Agave boasts a menu chock-full of Western-inspired grill fare. Commence a zesty supper with mini tortitas, a twist on burger sliders dolloped with cool guacamole ($8.99). An entree of buffalo-chicken fajitas drizzled in mango habanera and donned with crunchy jalapeno rings ($13.99) or a pecan-crusted Maryland-crab-cake sandwich coated in chipotle ranch and salsa ($8.99) top off empty stomach space otherwise occupied by freeloading ramen noodles, accompanied by an arsenal of comforting south-of-the-border sides and meal garnishes, such as seasoned fries, pico de gallo, and John Wayne's salty yet ever so manly tears. Satisfied guests can lean back and sip a tequila sunrise ($3.99), domestic and imported beer ($3–$5), or a chalice of vino ($5.50) poured from Blue Agave's loaded cache of libations.